BEST, an acronym for Business and Education Serving Together, is a workforce development initiative of the Cleveland/Bradley Chamber of Commerce.
“The Chamber’s BEST partnership program has successfully paired Chamber-member businesses with local schools in our community for more than 20 years,” Nancy Neal, vice president of communications, said.
“The goal is to promote a relationship that benefits both a business and a school through a commitment of time, energy and expertise. In a time when underfunding characterizes most school systems, these relationships are especially meaningful to our local schools. Ultimately, our goal is to ensure a qualified workforce for all businesses and industries in Cleveland and Bradley County.”
The purposes of the BEST program are to strengthen the quality of the educational process through the utilization of community resources, to foster better understanding between the business community and the schools, and to expand learning opportunities for everyone involved in the partnership effort.
“We are proud to report that each city and county school has one or more BEST partners,” said Sherry Crye, director of workforce development. “Two Chamber-member private schools — Tennessee Christian Preparatory School and Montessori Kinder — also have a BEST partner.”
According to Crye, the Chamber of Commerce instituted the new “Breakfast for Champions” to celebrate all BEST partners.
“We applaud your forethought to see the importance of business partnering with education to develop the most qualified workforce of tomorrow for Cleveland and Bradley County,” Crye said to the business partners present at the breakfast gathering. “Our community is expanding, especially in the industrial sector, and it is vitally important that we find innovative ways to work together to guarantee a qualified workforce to support our growing economy. Your support for local schools has a long-term impact on all our businesses.”
In 2001, the Chamber’s Education/Workforce Development Committee established an annual award for the BEST Partnership that exhibits the most substantial partnership during the school year. The award, now in its 12th year, honors the school and business partner or partners that have shown, through their yearly activities together, the true spirit of partnership for the betterment of both partners as well as the community as a whole.
“To better recognize active participants in the BEST Partnership program, three years ago we adopted a new evaluation process identifying three levels of recognition — Platinum, Gold and Silver,” Crye said. “Our participating schools are blessed to have such involved businesses that are willing to be a part of the education process and contribute resources — financial, materials and sweat equity — to these schools.”
She noted that the schools also understand the value of finding creative ways to give back to the businesses.
Earning a Platinum-level Award are these partnerships: Cleveland State Community College and Taylor Elementary; Lonza and Walker Valley High School; Rock-Tenn and Bradley Central High School; Santek Waste Services Inc. and Prospect Elementary School; and SkyRidge Medical Center and Black Fox and Hopewell Elementary Schools.
Earning a Gold-level Award are these partnerships: Cleveland Utilities and GOAL Academy; Eaton Electrical and Taylor Elementary School; Merck and Michigan Avenue Elementary School; Olin Corporation and Charleston Elementary School; and Wal-Mart #5263 and Lake Forest Middle School.
Two partnerships earned Silver-level Awards: Lee University and Arnold Memorial School and Lee University and Mayfield Elementary School.
Three partnerships received Honorable Mention: Candies Creek Baptist Church and Walker Valley High School; Manufacturers Chemical LLC and Teen Learning Center; and CiCi’s Pizza and Yates Primary School.
“Each of these partnerships reflects an investment of financial resources, creative energy, time and even physical skills that makes a difference in the lives of students across our community,” Neal said. “They are helping our schools prepare young men and women to find their gifts and callings and become our community’s future leaders and employers and workers. Though it sounds a bit cliché, all of our BEST partners are champions.”
For information about becoming a BEST partner, contact Crye at 472-6587 or e-mail her at email@example.com.